We all have our handful of movies that we can always go back to. No matter how many times we watch them, somehow they never get old. When you first see one of those movies, there's this feeling that I really wish I could properly describe in words. The closest I can probably get is feeling captivated, engrossed, and fascinated by the story happening in front of you. One of those movies for me is Let the Right One In. If you haven't seen the movie or have read the book, Let the Right One In is about a boy named Oskar who meets a new tenant in his apartment complex, a young girl named Eli. The two of them start a friendship and as Oskar learns more about Eli he has to make choices about who she is and how he feels about it. Beyond all of that he also has to survive a school where he's constantly bullied and humiliated. That's one of the chief reasons I connected with Oskar as a character. It's because at some point in my life (and this is real cliche of me to say) I was Oskar.
There's a particular scene in the movie where there's a police officer talking to Oskar's class. The police officer outlines a situation where they find a body in a building that burned down and despite it looking like an accident, they determined it as a murder. He asks the class why and no one raises their hand. Hesitantly, Oskar raises his and tells the officer that the reason why they could determine it was a murder was because there was no smoke in the victim's lungs. This gets praise from the officer but immediately his bully turns and looks at him. He doesn't say anything at that moment but you could tell that Oskar opened up a can of worms by speaking up in class. That scene resonated with me as it reminded me of my own experiences in school.
As I watched that scene unfold I knew exactly how Oskar felt. There's that initial excitement of knowing the answer but then there's also that hesitation. There's that voice in your head that tells you that you're sitting in the back for a reason. "You're invisible, you don't talk, you don't matter, you're nothing so keep quiet." He doesn't, though. He takes the risk, answers the question and he has a split second of acknowledgement, a very small moment of pride. "I was noticed, I was right, and even if it was only for a little bit I kind of mattered." Just as he felt all of that rush through him it was abruptly taken away the moment his bully, Connie, turns and looks at him. He knew that he was going to be reminded later in the day why he should have stayed invisible.
I suppose that's why Oskar and Eli connected almost right away. They were two people who were, for all intents and purposes, invisible not by design but by default. They found solace in each other through their conversations on the solitary jungle gym. She gave him genuine friendship, someone he could be himself with, and even gives him the strength to stand up to his bullies.
While their friendship is beautiful, there are darker elements to it as well. Their first meeting was when Oskar was stabbing a tree and pretending it was Connie. I think that it was this desire for revenge and a sense that there was something darker lurking beneath Oskar that drew Eli to him. Besides that, I could almost sense Oskar forming a powerful dependence on Eli as the film goes on. After all, she's the only person that he's not invisible to outside of his own mother. It's perhaps this dependence that lets him gloss over the other things she does and what she really is. There's just something compelling about feeling like you have an ally. I had very few growing up and we stuck to each other like glue. There's always that need for someone in our life who can lift us up. At least that's how it was for me and that's how it was for Oskar.
That's why Oskar still gets to me. There's so much of me in him that I found myself rooting for him and rooting for Eli. I wanted Eli to save him. I found the swimming pool scene to be cathartic despite the immense violence. A lot of his reaction to what was happening made sense to me because it's probably how I would have reacted. If, during that darker time at school, someone like Eli came along, would I have gone along with her? Would I have turned a blind eye to what they really were because I was so desperate to be pulled out of where I was? Those are some of the questions I almost always ask myself every time I re-watch this movie and despite several viewings my answer is still "I don't know."
What's one character that's really had an impact on you?